Gary Magenta is the Chief Change Architect at Root Inc, but besides that he is an expert on employee engagement, speaker, author, and a firm believer that productivity comes from discretionary effort. But, what is it that businesses should do to follow his lead? Check out the video interview below, or read the full transcript.

Workpuls: Hi everyone, Bojana here from Workpuls! Welcome to another episode of Workpuls Productivity Talks! Today we have Gary Magenta from Root Inc here with us. He is the Chief Change Architect and we will be, as always, discussing some productivity tips, what are they doing in their company to increase productivity. So let’s hear a bit from you Gary, what it is that you guys do, and start off with that.

Gary Magenta: Sure, well, I am with Root Inc as you said. I am the Chief Change Architect and what we do is really help organizations to be able to engage leaders, managers and the front line around business strategy and culture. So when you think about productivity which I know is a big focus for you, we really have a core belief that in order to help everyone be as productive as they can be, they really need to understand the big picture of why, what and how of our business, the why, what, how. So we really do help organizations engage leaders, managers, doers, our front line employees in the big picture of their business and what we need you to do to contribute. 

Workpuls: Okay, I actually had quite a few responses that everything starts off with the leadership and having that clear objective in the end so it kind of aligns with a lot of tips that we heard so far. To start with some basic questions, how would you define productivity? What is productivity in your own opinion?

Gary Magenta: That’s such an interesting question. There is sort of this maybe foundational definition of, “Well, how much stuff are we pushing out and how much time and energy does it take us to get it out the door?” And I think that sort of foundational definition there, but when I think about productivity it’s not just how we define it, it’s how we really create it. I like to look at the correlation between engagement and productivity. As we know with higher levels of engagement you have increased productivity. So instead of measuring productivity, what I am looking for is discretionary effort because with discretionary effort you see higher levels of productivity and you see it in people, in teams, sometimes in specific plants or stores within a large organization. “Why are some groups delivering at a higher level than others? Well, it’s because they are giving us their discretionary effort.” So how do we get more of that and that solves the productivity issue and the engagement issue at the same time.

Workpuls:  So, I guess you could say that productivity can be measured in some kind of way?

Gary Magenta: There’s no question it can be measured, I just don’t always subscribe to the whole ecosystem. It’s like, okay what we hear is, “We are not getting enough productivity so let’s go and change something.” I think what we have to change is the way our people think and feel about our business first. It’s always about a system reengineering, that’s the something. We've got to rejigger our workflow. Yeah, maybe you do, sure, that’s part of it. Or it’s redo our technology, yeah, sure that’s part of it. There are lots of system changes you can make, but I am not seeing out in the market place enough focus on how do we engage our people to deliver their absolute best. And so you get people who are, they are not disgruntled but they are not fully engaged, sort of the indifferent crowd that comes in and is sort of punching the clock, or somebody who just feels like this is a job and I am going to punch the clock is not going to give us their discretionary effort in their highest level of productivity. So there is an additional focus we need, not just on systems and technology but people first. 

Workpuls: I think that’s the thing a lot of companies actually go with that first, the systems and the technologies like maybe if we change this process or that process it will go faster. Yeah, it might go faster but it’s not changing anything in the long run so it’s definitely people first, after all.

Gary Magenta: People first for sure.

Workpuls: I guess you’ve done a lot of work with companies of different sizes and different industries and everything. Would you say that, you can achieve the same results with that thing, with just increasing employee engagement, it means achieving the same results across the board in different organizations?

Gary Magenta: Yeah. So what I think is the same, any size organization is that we start with purpose. What is the purpose of our business? Why do we get up every day? I think there is an expression that I really come to like these days is that, work is the new church and I believe that to be the case. People are spending a lot of time in there, it’s their sense of community, it’s where their friends are, we're eating together, we're socializing together, we're solving big problems together and it has become for many people their community or their church. And what’s interesting about communities and religious organizations is that they’re all focused on a common thing – a purpose. Organizations who have a higher calling, and I don’t mean any religious connotation to that, but sort of a higher calling of why we exist and can bring their people into that higher calling, have a higher level of engagement. So, organizations of all sizes really need to start with why are we here and what is the purpose that we are fulfilling? And engage our employees with that. Then they need the ability, at any size organization, to provide their individual workers with a great manager. Because sometimes between the people who have developed the purpose and the people who are responsible at the front line for bringing that purpose to life, something gets lost. And that’s usually because the translation coming from the manager is inconsistent across the business. So let’s lead with purpose, focus on our people who all have a great manager, who can help them translate that purpose into actions and behaviors that they can take as an individual contributor.

Workpuls: Okay, so a sort of like the first thing employers were looking to increase the productivity, should actually analyze what they are doing and see what the purpose of their business is and if that’s properly communicated across the board and throughout the whole company.

Gary Magenta: Yeah. So, for sure. What’s interesting is, many organizations really take pain staking measures to make sure that they have a purpose or a strong mission and then leave it written on a plaque somewhere in a hallway. It’s not doing any good on the plaque, the plaque doesn’t work. So they already have them and to your point if you don’t have one this is a good time especially now to pause and say, “Why are we here? What is the greater mission or purpose of our business?” But many organizations have them, it’s about getting it from the plaque to the heart and minds of their people. And the mistake that many companies make, I see larger organizations and small organizations alike making this is when they say, “ We have to change productivity.” Immediately the first thing they do is, they move to training. “Let’s train you on how to do something different.” That’s the last thing you do. You do it but it’s the last thing you do.

You start with, “What is our purpose? Why do we exist? What is the current state of our business today? What is the desired future state of our business? Where are we going? What are gaps that exist and how can you as an individual contribute to bridging those gaps? Because people want to belong to a winning team, people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and you have to tell them that story. “Here is our purpose? Why do we exist? Here is where we are at today? Here is where we are going? And here is how you help to span that gap.” Now, I have a sense of pride and ego, in a good way, and contribution and I understand how what I do impacts this business. There is a great sense of satisfaction and understanding my contribution. All of that converts into engagement and discretionary effort. Again, if you want to look at the equation for productivity it is discretionary effort equals greater productivity. Now, you can add to that discretionary effort, place the right process, systems, and technology, they are all important but let’s start with discretionary effort. And as you get discretionary effort when you include me in that conversation in that story of the why, what and how.

Workpuls: Interesting. I really think that the mission and vision have become, in the past few years from what I was able to see, sort of like a trend. It’s cool that we have this as a company, we are going to have it, as you said, somewhere on a wall, we are going to have it on our website and we are just going to leave it there. Nobody… I mean, not nobody but a lot of people don’t come back to that and don’t incorporate that within their culture so it’s really weird because you have it there. It’s so simple but it just stays there for some reason.

Gary Magenta: Some people take it for granted. I hear from leaders all the time, “Ah, they know that, we don’t need to talk about that again. They know that.” Really you have a 30% turnover rate and you haven’t talked about it in five years and they know that. No. Or how did they know that? When was the last time you talked about it? Purpose and mission and those sort of things, they are like house rules. When you are in a family environment which is what a business is, it’s just a big family, we talk about those rules over and over again. We talk about the principles or foundation of our family and what it is that we believe in on a regular basis. Same has to happen in business.

Workpuls: Okay.

Gary Magenta: You can’t just say it once, go away for 10 years and think it all solved.

Workpuls: Yeah, that’s true. When managers are trying, managers who are struggling and employers who are struggling to actually share this mission and vision with a team and trying to get the team to get excited about it. What would be your advice to them? 

Gary Magenta: So, I am so glad you mention that, it is one of the passion points that I have. The first book I wrote was just on that topic, on managers being able to engage their teams, and here is what I find in the research to that book. Number one is, if you ask managers why they don’t take the time to engage their teams in those big picture purpose conversations they will tell you, “I don’t have the time.” They will consistently say, “I don’t have the time.” When you take that option away and you say, if time weren’t an issue, what is preventing you from engaging your people in big picture strategy, purpose, those sort of conversations. Their answer is, “I don’t know how and I don’t know what to say.” And so what we find is that managers are oftentimes promoted because they are great at a skill or a task, and so they get promoted to a manager but that doesn’t mean that they have the natural ability to engage a team. So when we started the conversation I said, “Organizations really focus on people first and providing them with a great manager.” Well, there are some managers that are born with the ability to engage their teams and others who need to learn it, and many organizations are not investing in building the skills and capability of their managers to engage their employees in that type of conversation. So what do I say about that, if you want greater productivity, if you want and need greater employee engagement and capturing discretionary effort. The manager is the lynchman, the manager is the key because to the front line workers, they are the company; the manager is the company and we are not investing in them. Managers need a stronger investment in helping them to really understand that their role is the chief engagement officer and that their primary function is to engage their employees, to capture their hearts and minds to deliver their discretionary effort which ultimately increases productivity.

Workpuls: Yeah, it all comes back to the same thing in the end. Yes, I like that really. Are there any other tips when it comes…I am guessing before you realized that this is the best way, the optimal way to increase productivity in the workplace, I’m guessing you’ve tried different methods, maybe your own team. Can you tell us a little bit about that, what did you try, if anything, beside this?

Gary Magenta: Well, I don’t know there are things that don’t necessarily work but there is a combination of things that I think do work. As businesses and managers, leaders and managers, we need to be great storytellers. So when you think about really engaging your employees and capturing their heart and mind, nothing does that better than a story. So organizations who are really good at this have mastered the art of storytelling and storytelling has sort of a systems approach to it. And you have highs and lows in stories, and you have to master the drama of all of that. 

Once things were great and fantastic then something happened that changed our business and we shifted and ended in this better place. So we start out as a high, we have a little bit of a dip or a call to action to rally everybody around. We take new activities and we end up on the other side of this. Managers and leaders really need the skills to tell a great story. Organizations have to tell a story. If you think back to the beginning of time that is the way we are hardwired as human beings to learn and to get emotionally connected. It’s storytelling, it’s why television, and plays, and movies, and songs, and paintings are such a big part of our lives or art, such a big part of our lives because they all tell stories. So in our organization we recommend putting all of that together. If you want to talk about strategy and purpose and operations and productivity, let’s tell a story and let’s use pictures to do it so that we can engage people really in an emotional way in the business. If you want to get to change behaviors, you have to start with emotion. If I am not bought in emotionally, I am not changing my behavior. So start by capturing people’s emotion or their heart, start with stories and make sure you are using pictures because since we were children we were looking at picture books. When we were cavemen we were drawing pictures on the walls of the caves. It’s a part of who we are to tell stories, use visualization.

Workpuls: Okay, so those are the biggest tips, I guess, it’s storytelling and engaging people through that storytelling and through emotion. When it comes to questions that I had I think that’s all. I think we have covered, we scratched the surface of the employee engagement, what we cover is the essentials of it and how it can help managers and organizations to become better and improve. Is there anything else you would like to add to the story?

Gary Magenta: Nothing to add except people first, people first, people first, people first, people first. People first, process second.

Workpuls: Okay, good. Thank you very much for joining us for the interview and thank you everybody who is watching Workpuls Productivity Talks. I hope to talk to you again soon. 

Gary Magenta: I do too, thanks for having me today.

Workpuls: Bye.

Gary Magenta: Bye.

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